Track cycling: not just about gold medals
Out there in ‘Club Land’ all around Australia are people enjoying the art of cycling. We take a look at one coaching session on the velodrome that is more about encouragement than winning…
Colin Williamson turns up at the Tempe track in Sydney’s inner west each Wednesday evening. He’s a passionate rider but he doesn’t bring his cycling shoes with him for the regular sessions on the old concrete 333m velodrome. Instead, he waits to see what the turn-out will be and then he and a few other coaches devise a program to suit the kids.
Numbers may vary from 10 to 30 on any given Wednesday. It might be in the heat of a summer evening or it could be in the cold dark of winter but there they are, week after week, teaching kids about track craft.
Click the link above to see a Wednesday evening session for the kids at Tempe Velodrome.
It’s not a complicated program. It could involve a few laps to warm up and some stretching on the grass of the infield. There may be a ‘junior’ group and a ‘senior’ group; one on the warm-up track, the other on the banked velodrome… or it could be that everyone just rides together. At the end of the day, it’s about fun and learning – and maybe becoming a racer.
You need a Cycling Australia license so that you’re covered should there be an accident, but that rarely happens in this controlled environment.
Turn up, pay $10 for the first child, and $5 per head thereafter. The costs cover the use of the velodrome (which is locked unless under correct supervision) and a little bit may go back to the club for the Christmas party (or, rather, the Christmas racing carnival).
As you can see in the video, there’s no pressure to perform. Some children have never ridden a bike before turning up, others have fantastic form and plenty of experience by the time they reach their teenage years. That’s how it is at Tempe on a Wednesday evening, and it’s like that elsewhere around Australia thanks to a merry band of volunteers who, quite simply, love the beauty of cycling.
Tempe boasts one of numerous velodromes in the country that have programs for all family members. Find your local track, join a club and ride…!
Track cycling at this level is about as basic as it gets: no freewheel, no gears, no brakes… and bikes that you can borrow for the evening and then hang back up on the rafters underneath the grandstand. It provides children with an understanding about riding in groups, pacing themselves, taking turns and following wheels.
We may sit back and watch in awe as riders break world records and win gold medals at the Commonwealth Games or world championships but really track cycling – for all the emphasis that is placed on it by the national federation – is the poor cousin of the myriad cycling disciplines that lure in the masses. Yet it is beautiful to do, and it teaches you about the art of pedalling.
It can start out tranquil but there is also plenty of action as the evening session goes on…
If you haven’t tried it, don’t be afraid. There’s no mockery or nastiness. There are plenty of coaches with years of experience and a willingness to introduce people to riding rudimentary bikes in a safe environment. Come along, bring some kit and your cycling shoes and clip in for a two hour ride… you may just enjoy the experience.
– By Rob Arnold